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Brad Woodhouse, at podium, the communications director of the Democratic National Committee, addresses a question as Randy Johnson listens during a press conference at Piccola Italia Ristorante in Manchester Monday afternoon. Johnson onced worked for a company that closed down after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had taken over it in 1994. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Democrats unwilling to let GOP control the message

MANCHESTER - With the national spotlight beaming down on New Hampshire for the Republican presidential primary today, the Democratic National Committee is trying to grab some of the limelight.

In a second-floor downtown office above Piccola Italia Ristorante, the DNC has set up its New Hampshire 'war room,' with staff working the phones and holding a series of public events and conference calls.

And while Granite Staters haven't cast their votes yet, the DNC has squarely set its sights on the Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

On Monday, the war room's featured guest was Randy Johnson, who claims Romney was responsible for the elimination of his job and those of hundreds of his co-workers at an Ampad plant in Indiana after it was taken over in the 1990s by Bain Capital, the private equity firm headed by Romney.

Both Johnson and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz seized on comments Romney made earlier in the day to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce, that 'he enjoying firing people.' Romney was referring to having the ability to choose among health insurance companies.

'That's not news to me,' Johnson said. 'Mitt Romney fired me and everyone at the plant.'

Bain took over Ampad in 1992. After laying off hundreds of workers and amassing $400,000 in debt, the company went bankrupt in 2000, while Bain and investors made $100 million, according to a report in The Boston Globe.

In making the case that Romney was out of touch with ordinary Americans, Wasserman Schultz cited a comment Romney made on Sunday, that 'there were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.'

'The only reason Mitt Romney knows what a pink slip looks like is because he handed out so many,' the DNC chair said.

A spokesman for the Romney campaign countered, 'The Democrats continue to launch dishonest attacks to distract from the Obama administration's failed economic policies and abysmal jobs record.'

Democratic Party officials also enlisted the help of Randy Johnson, the former Ampad worker, at events ahead of the Iowa caucus last week.

The Romney spokesman noted that Romney's detractor was a union organizer with the United Auto Workers.

Johnson said he's a registered Democrat.

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